For the past six (6) years, Red Lake Economic Development and Planning has taken food security concerns from the community meetings President Seki held in 2015. We have begun the planning process to build a Ministry of Agriculture for our community in 2017. With generous support from the Native American Agriculture Fund, Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, NDN Collective, and American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to Red Lake, we are thrilled to announce this year that our food sovereignty plans will come to fruition for our community.
The Red Lake Department of Agriculture is divided into three main divisions: Red Lake Buffalo Ranch, Gitigaan Acres and Red Lake Hemp Farms. Each division supports the other with the production of foods, value-added products and advanced technologies. There are three other divisions: the Youth Bureau, Food Safety and Regulatory, and Processing provides additional support to the three main divisions with labor, compliance and quality control, and the scalability.
Red Lake Buffalo Ranch:
The Red Lake Buffalo Ranch has grown by leaps and bounds. We will be dedicating the ranch with a new name next month during the full moon to coincide with our traditions. As you may remember, we started with seven (7) buffaloes, one (1) bull, aka Jumbo, five (5) cows and one (1) calf, aka Renegade. Renegade was the buffalo who escaped his first night before we lit the electric fence and roamed our homelands spreading his medicine. When he first arrived on Red Lake, a thunderstorm followed him.
Towards the end of spring and the beginning of summer, five (5) new calves were born which were added to our herd which totals twelve (12). Thanks to the generous support of the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council and Wind Cave State Park, fifteen (15) more yearlings arrived in Red Lake last November. This spring, we are expecting five (5) more calves. We’ll keep you posted and hope our trail cams can catch a birth. The Wind Caves buffalo bloodline is 100% matched to bison/ox hybrids that are found in various herds across Indian Country. The bison ranch currently has 280 acres fenced and we will be fencing 300 more acres this year. We will build a processing facility when we start harvesting our first bison. We will invite members to come and help with the harvest. We plan to have our first bison harvest in 2023. As we move forward with the bison ranch, our plan is to train more members on bison care through traditional/modern practices such as drone technology, fencing construction, maintenance and repair and investing in youth to sustain our ranch for years to come. As Fred says, “Come visit them.” Their address is: 13150 596th Street, Gonvick, MN 56644
Beware of the electric fence, do not try to enter the fence area.
We plant many vegetables in our eight (8) acre plot as well as strawberries, blueberries and rhubarb. We currently have 32 fruit trees of apple, plum, apricot and cherry varieties which we planted in the fall of 2020. We will have a greenhouse installed this summer to train our members and youth in growing from seeds. We want community members to come and help build the greenhouse. We will also build two (2) high-rise tunnels. Elevated tunnels help extend the growing season. With ARPA funds, we will build a Pack shed to clean our vegetables and prepare for sale and distribution inside a large pole barn. This pole barn will also house a commercial grade kitchen to support our existing canning equipment to preserve our fresh organic vegetables.
One of our main goals is to plant an acre of potatoes, onions, celery and carrots, as these are products that everyone uses at Red Lake. We will teach different ways to preserve vegetables to ensure that we don’t lose essential vitamins in produce. Another important product that we want to focus on is preparing your own baby food. We need to make sure we provide our precious Red Lake babies with healthy, nutritious food right from the start and sourced directly from Gitigaan Acres. Our plan is to deliver fresh vegetables to local schools for their salad bar, seniors nutrition program and eventually to Red Lake Trading Post/Casinos.
You are not sovereign until you can feed your people.
Red Lake Hemp Farms:
We plant 140 acres of industrial hemp across from Buffalo and adjacent to Gitigaan Acres. Our 140 acres are covered by crop insurance for the 2022 growing season. Hemp is a wonderful, ancient, but recently reintroduced to the agricultural scene in the United States. There are so many uses for this plant that will benefit Red Lake.
Last month, we visited a hemp seed factory in North Dakota that manufactures hemp seed cake and cold-pressed hemp seed oil. The factory owner is a second generation grain farmer and he will help us grow our first crop of hemp to ensure we are doing it the right way to his food grade specifications. He will buy most of our hemp seeds and we will keep the hemp stalks. We will also keep some hemp seeds to make our bison patties from the hemp seed patty and coated in maple syrup. Hemp seed cake is good for buffalo digestion.
The value-added products that we will make from the hemp seeds are a wild rice hemp bar. We are thrilled to offer this product to our members as it will be so nutritious. Hemp seeds are rich in Omega 3, Omega 6, all essential amino acids to support the human body, and one tablespoon contains ten (10) grams of protein. We hope to infuse hemp seeds, puffed wild rice, maple syrup, and pumpkin seeds to make these bars for our community and the protein/puff bar retail market.
Unfortunately, Enbridge Line 3 is only twelve (12) miles from the farm. We have made it a priority in our five-year oil spill plan to develop an absorbent from hemp stalks to soak up any oil that may seep into groundwater. We plan to obtain United States Department of Agriculture Bio-preferred certification for our agricultural business to market this oil absorbent in surrounding national and state parks by 2024.
As part of our plan, we are looking at various other bio-based products to diversify our hemp division. We recently traveled to Oregon State University to visit the Global Hemp Innovation Center. They are researching different ways to use the hemp plant to replace products made from fossil fuels. We also visited an organic factory that uses hemp pellets to make utensils and containers that will disintegrate in months compared to the years it takes to break down polystyrene and plastic. One of the caveats of hemp is its ability to biodegrade in the natural environment. There are so many uses for this plant and so much more to learn. We want Red Lake to use and diversify hemp to support our food sovereignty for future generations.
I would like to take this time to thank the staff: Fred Auginash, our Buffalo Director has been a tremendous asset to the bison program and its success with James Kingbird. Dell Perkins is the Agriculture Coordinator, who oversaw our Gitigaan Acres and the growth of our test garden last year. This year, she will share her gardening techniques passed down by her family. She has also been a tremendous asset to the Ministry of Agriculture. We would also like to thank Mr. Kade Ferris who helped with our grant application for the Buffalo and gave me the courage to go. Marcus Grignon is our hemp consultant, who has guided us on our journey to create a strong foundation for our hemp program. He also helps write our grants. Many thanks to the Native American Agriculture Fund for starting us on the path to food sovereignty with funding, many thanks for your patience in understanding during the Covid-19 year(s). NDN Collective provided us with much needed funds so we could train our members and together with Honor the Earth provided us with funds for our solar trailers so we could make our farm not entirely dependent on electricity. The First Nations Development Institute provided the department with technical assistance funds and infrastructure. They got us started with our first food grant called “Seeds of Native Health”. Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community donated farm equipment last summer, chi-miigwetch Shakopee. The Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council provided the funds for our fencing, water source, supplemental food, and technical assistance. Thanks also to Red Lake Inc. for allowing a portion of Red Lake Farms land to be used for these projects. Last but not least, we thank the Red Lake Tribal Council and Joe Plumer for believing and making a dream come true for the citizens of Red Lake Nation. Chi-miigwetch! If I forgot anyone, you will be recognized as I intend to keep everyone updated on our progress at the ranch.
Please take the time to watch our video when our old bison herd met our new bison herd. The link is: http://www.youtube.com and search for Red Lake Buffalo.
Miigwetch, Cherilyn Spears, Project Coordinator